Why This Consultancy Founder Thinks Everyone Has Genius

“In ancient Roman mythology, genius was thought of as something outside of yourself, a soul that connected you to the divine and enabled you to produce or create,” shares Pontish Yeramyan, founder and CEO of the global management consultancy Gap International. “During the Renaissance, genius shifted from something that everyone had to something only a select few were born with.”


Yeramyan explains that in the 19th century, scientists began analyzing brains, measuring skulls and researching hereditary backgrounds to discover the source of genius. By the 20th century, IQ tests were developed to measure intelligence, which became synonymous with genius.


Today, some say genius isn’t necessarily something you’re born with, but rather can be taught and requires hard work and practice.


“We still have our traditional geniuses, but we appreciate the genius across a range of fields. In fact, we say there is genius in everyone,” Yeramyan notes.


But how does the person busy with daily life and workday stresses tap into their undiscovered genius? Are there mental techniques to tune out the noise, sharpen focus and foster creativity? Can mindfulness strategies help distill thoughts and uncover hidden insights?


Yeramyan explains that every person is capable of tapping into their inner genius and sustaining it over time. That’s because genius isn’t something you have or you don’t; it’s a mindset and a process to achieve exceptional results.


Forbes asked Yeramyan four questions to explore this point of view. Her responses have been lightly edited.


Q: How do we know genius exists in every one of us?


A: Let me tell you a little bit about where this all started. We were consulting with this company in 2000. Their CEO was about to retire. He was an amazing man who had brought the company to new levels, but we didn’t know how to capture his genius for the next person who would fill his seat. When you ask someone who is exceptional how they do it, they often don’t have a good answer. They might say they had a good upbringing or luck or through hard work. But none of those are things you can easily replicate. There’s nowhere to go with that. So I thought, “Wouldn’t that be amazing if we could understand how extraordinary people think so they could have a greater impact in their organizations?”


We believe that genius isn’t just for one or two exceptional leaders. Our whole business is about realizing the exceptional in everybody. How do we have them produce extraordinary outcomes? How can we help people turn on their genius thinking? Not some of the time, not whenever it strikes, but all the time. It’s really about making the most out of what makes every person exceptional. Genius is a way of thinking—a mindset or a framework—not a muse that visits only the select few.


Q: How do we measure genius?


A: We can measure outcomes, the size of the accomplishment, how unexpected or big of a deal some result is. We quantify this by measuring the result against what a person originally set out to do and what they actually accomplished. A genius is a person who thinks something new, announces it to the world and then makes it happen. It’s someone who has done something like nobody else has, or one who goes far beyond people’s expectations, repeatedly.


Q: What elements allow us to perform at a genius level?


A: We define genius as the thinking behind people's most extraordinary outcomes, and we have the privilege of working with some people who have very amazing outcomes. Somebody can invent the electric car. Another person can figure out how to go to Mars.


But there are different levels of extremeness in what people do that we can call genius. We as an organization are out to discover those elements that lead people to these extreme results.


So one element that we develop with clients is becoming comfortable being the wellspring for extraordinary ideas. You need to be relentlessly curious. If you already think you know everything, then there’s nowhere left to go. You also need to be in an environment where it feels safe to explore and act on risky ideas.


Another element is commitment. The more extreme an idea is, the more convinced the person has to be of it and the more unshakeable they must be when presenting it to the world. You can’t doubt, even when doubt inevitably creeps in. You must know that your idea will contribute in some meaningful way to the world.


The final thing is that you have to love your idea. You must be certain of it and obsessed with it. You must experience joy from pursuing it. If you don’t have all these things, your genius is lost from the start.


Q: What’s the playbook for genius?


A: When a person is in their business-as-usual, normal way of life, genius-level thinking is less likely to show up on cue. Most people believe that acts of genius strike randomly. We work with our clients to help them understand that this notion of genius isn't true.


We are about causing outcomes, causing things when we want to, causing brilliance when we need to. Not randomly when it shows up, or in the shower when you’re seemingly struck by a great idea out of the blue.


Many people don’t explore how they think. We’ve worked with thousands and thousands of people, and that seems to be the way it is in human beings. That lack of insight is pretty universal to people, and that’s the place where we begin. But once they see it and start questioning their own mind, they start to own the thinking process itself, and they can start harnessing it to achieve more.


But nobody runs around saying, “I’m a genius.” People are more readily admitting stupidity than genius. We have them see what they believe [about their own ideas] isn’t necessarily true. And when they see that neither their genius nor their stupidity is necessarily true, then they have a choice to start exploring what [mindset] to adopt.


That’s the secret of our success—we help people see and work on the whole architecture of how they think. A person’s own genius is often hidden even from themselves, but once we expose it, they then have all the tools to bring forth change and make the difference they want to make.


As originally published in Forbes.


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